Putting the Story First

There is always a temptation to shoot for the “beauty shots”, that is to make every image gorgeous. I admit that I often spend way too much time trying to achieve the perfect look. I always remind myself however, that what our clients want most in their wedding video is the story. Having many beautiful shots without the underlying story is like an empty gift wrapped box. Pretty to look at, but nothing inside. No matter what, we always put the emphasis on the story. The story is told through the words spoken on the wedding day. These words may come from the officiant, the person delivering the toast, the bride and groom’s family, or even the couple themselves.

Every wedding is different. Sometimes there is a beautiful sermon or a moving toast. Other times the ceremony is uninspired and the toasts perfunctory. So not every event will be equal emotionally. It can be a challenge to the editor when we don’t have much to work with. There is always something though. Eye candy is pretty, but words are profound. And it the words that will be remembered. That is our goal in telling the story.

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Interesting insights on wedding filmmaking

In recent posts I have often referred to our style as “wedding filmmaking” rather than wedding videography. The clip below from Chicago based Zacuto Productions and featuring noted wedding filmmakers John Goolsby, Kristin * of Bliss* Video Productions, and Joe Simon of Joe Simon Productions. In this clip John, Kristin*, and Joe discuss what makes a wedding film and why it is different that wedding video.

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Beyond Wedding Video

“Beyond Wedding Video . . ” This is the new lead phrase on our home page. What do we mean by this? Wedding videography has seen enormous changes in the past decade. In the 90s most videographers did little more than record the events of the day. Sadly enough, the result was often a long boring video that was watched once or twice and then put away in a drawer. To many videographers still deliver nothing more. For couples who have seen “old school” videos, there seems little reason to spend money on something that they don’t value.

We along with other progressive studios are taking a different approach. To produce short beautifully crafted mini-movies of the wedding day. The emphasis is on feeling, emotion and beauty. It is all done in the edit. We match words and music for emotional impact. Great care is taken in the look and sound of the film. The challenge is to find and draw out the bride and groom’s story.

It wasn’t uncommon a few years ago to load wedding videos with effects. We don’t like to use any effect unless it enhances the story. So you will see almost no fancy transitions in our work, perhaps an occasional blur or cross dissolve but mostly straight cuts. I always say that if it doesn’t look good with a simple cut, then it hasn’t been edited correctly. We do use slow motion occasionally, but only a little and only if it enhances the story. Our titles are simple white on black as fancy titling is nothing more that eye candy.

Of course every client gets a “documentary style” edit of the ceremony and reception. That way there will be a complete record of the day. But the centerpiece is always the Wedding Story, because it is there that the real meaning of of the day will be preserved.

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When less is more

In the past year we have been placing a much greater emphasis on short, beautifully edited mini-movies of the wedding day (we call them “Wedding Stories”) instead of the more traditional wedding video. There are several reasons for this shift. The most important one is that we are not just in the business of documenting the event, it is our job to capture the feeling of the day. We want our wedding videos to be something that is treasured and watched for years to come.

Our Wedding Stories are typically short (from about 30 minutes down to 7 or 8). Each one is unique. The idea is to present the essence of the day in a moving and entertaining manner. We want the viewer to be drawn into the experience. Like the title of this post says, less is more. Since every client gets the complete ceremony and main reception events as extras, we are free to get to the emotional core of the day. This takes time and requires extensive editing. In addition to the edit itself, there is music selection, as well as picking out appropriate audio for voice overs. It is also very important that your Wedding Story looks and sounds special. This requires color grading and sound design.

All of this takes time which is why the Wedding Story is only available with the Plus and Ultra Package.  It is worth it though. For a more detailed explanation and sample video clips, visit our gallery page.

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The Wedding Highlights Movie – What is it?

Included in the Deluxe and Ultimate packages is our Wedding Highlights Movie. It is sometimes difficult to explain to clients exactly what it is. Our goal here is to get to the emotional center of the wedding and create a short film that preserves the day, not just images and sound, but the feeling of the wedding. We do this by taking the emotional highlights and putting them together with appropriate music in a free-form structure.

 Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. These do not have to be in chronological order however. A well written story also has anticipation, climax, and resolution. Climax and resolution are the key points that the video is structured around. Often (but not always) the climax will the vows. Resolution creates the ending, leaving the viewer feeling satisfied that the story has been told and is complete. In the past we have used a linear story line. The production starts with the getting ready segment, proceeds to the ceremony and then to the reception. It concludes with a closing montage of the day’s events.  We use voiceovers from the ceremony and reception (toasts, readings, the sermon etc) to reinforce and build the emotional center. Music is also an important part of this. We choose music that we feel will enhance the story as well as songs chosen by the couple. We are moving towards using a less linear format.

 The goal here is to emphasize the emotional center. To that end we may not necessarily proceed from bridal prep to ceremony to reception. The video may end with the vows, or perhaps the first dance. It depends on what we have filmed, what we have as voiceover materiel and many other factors. In some cases we will not "time shift" the program if we feel that a linear storyline is best. The most important point is that the story must be engaging, coherent, and meaningful.

 Our clients often wonder why a 20 to 40 minute highlights video takes much more time to produce then a two hour documentary style edit. This is because we spend many hours discovering the story within and bringing it out through artistic editing. The emphasis is not on just stringing together the wedding ceremony and reception, but bringing the wedding day film to a higher level. We hope that each couple, years after their wedding, will still play their Wedding Highlights and feel one again like bride and groom. Here are some examples of our Wedding Highlights Program.

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Evolution of style – Where we were and where we are going

EventDV this month did an excellent article on what is called the “New Documentary” style. In the beginning wedding videographers would just record the day as it happened. Then after Non-Linear computer editing systems became popular, videographers had the opportunity to be more creative. So the “Cinematic” video was born. Instead of just covering the day, now a small movie with lots of music and effect (slow motion, black & white etc) could be done. The problem here was that after awhile it was all music and not enough story.

That is what the New Documentary style is all about. Use the music and effects only as needed to move the video forward, and to establish a style.  Use lots of actual dialog and voice overs to tell that story. The EventDV article explains it much better than I can.

As for myself, I am starting to move in that direction. I looked at some of my early wedding videos and realized that I was already employing the elements of the New Documentary style. They didn’t have the sophistication of my more recent work, but they told the story in a natural and interesting way. So look for some modest changes in the way I edit wedding videos over the months.

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Is High definition important for your wedding video

While most couples are not asking this question (at least no one has asked me yet), we are moving rapidly into the world of high definition television. It is getting difficult to even buy a standard definition television these days. Wedding videographers are also moving into the hi def world, us included. We are in the process of acquiring high definition cameras and editing systems. Is resolution everything though? No. I firmly believe that content is what counts.

The reason why most couples don’t ask their videographer about HD, is that it is the content that is important to them, not how many pixels are on the screen. They want their video to be a beautiful, meaningful portrait of their wedding day.

And that is how we feel. We know that people who ask us to film their weddings are asking us because our something in our work has touched them. Not everyone who sees our samples will like our style, but for some, that style is exactly what they are looking for.

Yes, we will be going HD in the coming months. But it will not change how we tell your wedding story.

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Church restrictions and how we work with them

One issue that videographers have to work with is restrictions that are sometimes placed on us by churches. We want to cover your wedding ceremony in the best way possible. However we also need to be respectful of the fact that we are in a house of worship. Rule number one is always that we will abide by any any restrictions placed on us by the clergy or church wedding coordinator.

I always talk to the officiant and the church’s wedding coordinator before the ceremony. I let him or her know where our cameras are and what we will be doing during the ceremony. I then ask them what considerations that we should make to assure that we will be working within the guidelines of the church. Most clergy appreciate the fact that we talk with them as many photographers and videographers do not communicate.

This is also the time when I ask the officiant if we can place a microphone on him or her. If they object, we tell them that the bride and groom would really like to hear the words that they will be saying. This flatters them and more often than not, they agree to the microphone.

What if the officiant does not agree to allow us to cover the wedding properly. In this case we have little choice but to work within the guidelines set down by the church. We will do the best we can, but if we can only shoot from the back of the church, you can’t expect to have those wonderful closeups that you may have seen in our sample wedding videos.

Most of the time however, we are not restricted in a way that we will be unable to cover your wedding properly. You should talk to your minister or priest well before the wedding about having video. That way you will know about any restrictions. As I mentioned, we can often get some of these lifted just by talking to the officiant. They may have had a bad experience in the past and just want some reassurance that we will conduct ourselves in a respectful an professional manner.

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If I could only hear it all again.

One comment that I often get from couples is that they will always have memories of loved ones who are now gone. That is one thing that your wedding video will do. There is much more though. What about the vows, the minister’s sermon, the readings? What about the best man’s toast? No matter how many pictures you have of your wedding, without video you can never hear those words again.

I will relate a story here about my own wedding. We didn’t want to pay for video, but we had a friend shoot with my camera (a Canon GL1). The resulting video was shaky, with poor audio, but because it was a very small church and reception location, at least the day was preserved on tape. I am happy that we do have a video. One of the bridesmaids gave a beautiful reading, and the minister did a funny, upbeat sermon. If we just had photography, we could never hear any of that again. I mentioned that because of the small size of the church, we had intelligible audio. But just barely. Two of our friends sung a song that they had written. But it came out too distorted to listen to. This is why we should have hired a professional. So say the least, this is before I became a videographer, although editing my wedding as well as my sister in law’s wedding the following year, got me thinking about wedding videography.

I am not discounting preserving the memories of those who are no longer with us. My father passed away last month, and although he really didn’t play much of a part in our wedding, at least I have him in the video when he was still vibrant and healthy.

So when you think about whether you can afford video, remember, while your photos will preserve the look of your wedding day, nothing but video can preserve the words.

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